If you grew up in one of the more traditional American Christian denominations, chances are good that you didn’t talk much in church about the Holy Spirit. For many of us in our experiences growing up, the Holy Spirit was kind of like that socially-awkward relative who comes to your family gatherings. He’s there, he’s a part of the family, but you don’t really understand him and you’re a little uncomfortable around him, so you do your best to ignore him, or deemphasize him.
In the Holy Spirit’s case, unlike Uncle Eddie, we ignore Him to our peril. The Holy Spirit is the very power of God in us; He is what separates us from everyone else. The same power that spoke all the universe into creation, that healed the blind and deaf, and that raised the dead, has been given to us through the Spirit. Christ’s very presence in our lives, day after day, is given through Him. He convicts us of our sin and guides us to righteousness; gives us the right words to say and prayers to pray when we are at a loss; encourages, inspires, empowers, heals, and sanctifies. Quite simply, the Holy Spirit is God’s greatest gift to us. He’s the gift of His presence and power to do all things in His Name.
Since it’s taken me about a quarter century to get over my hang-ups with the Holy Spirit, how can I protect my children from years wasted by not living within His power? How can I shepherd them to live Spirit-filled lives, becoming veritable warriors for God’s Kingdom in ways that I never have? Three things spring to mind:
First, helping them to see the Holy Spirit as a person. He is not karma, He is not “The Force.” He is not an “it.” He is a “He,” as much a member of the Trinity as God the Father or the Son. To be loved, talked and listened to, worshipped, and embraced. Actually, maybe even more so, because He is the part of the Godhead actually living in us, intimately intertwined with our very being. Rather than giving kids the visual image of a little man living in our hearts, like the little conscience guy that sits on our shoulder and whispers in our ear, the Holy Spirit fills our whole being, like our own spirit, living and walking beside us daily-a friend and a partner, as well as a Lord.
Second, talking our kids through being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s life in them. If they are saved by Christ, they have the same Holy Spirit within them that we do-not some junior varsity, kid version, but the fully manifested presence of God. That means that they can pray and feel Him leading them, convicting their hearts when they sin, making them sad when they see injustice in the world, and calling out to them to make it right, the person in whose Name they should pray. I want to be intentional about tying all of these feelings and thoughts my kids have to the Holy Spirit, so that they see His work in their lives. Since He is only too willing to make Himself known to them, He will make His presence obvious to them. I just have to ask Him to do it, and be intentional in helping my kids make those connections.
Finally, teaching my kids to spend less time manipulating and begging, and more time praying. This is something that has taken me years to get. I took advantage of the fact that I was pretty persuasive and trained as a lawyer to try to convince people into doing what I wanted them to do. In the process, I ran over a lot of people, leading to hurt feelings and, at times, an abuse of my power as their leader. God is teaching me instead to cast the vision, what He is laying on my heart, communicating that to others, and praying that He will affirm that in their hearts, as well. If I am hearing from the Lord correctly, they will join with me willingly in His work. If I’m not, I don’t need to be working at cross-purposes with Him, anyway.
How this works with my kids is similar. One of my daughters has been asking us for a puppy; this despite the fact that we already have a dog. After working us over pretty well for a while, I stopped her. I told her that we should all pray and ask the Lord whether this was the time in our life as a family that we need a new puppy. We should trust in Him to affirm it in all of our hearts if it is. So far, I’m not feeling it, but I’m seeking the Spirit’s guidance, and I have to be open in good faith. We all do. It’s a great experience for our family, to pray together and ask the Spirit to unify us in some direction as a family. This relatively minor issue is a major opportunity to learn who the Spirit is and how He works.
My prayer is that my children will have a deep, abiding relationship with this less-understood, but precious member of the Trinity. I pray that God will use me to introduce His purpose and power into their lives.